Details of the Transportation Bill
The Senate and House passed a new highway reauthorization bill with the House voting in favor by a margin of 373 – 52, and the Senate voting in favor of the new law 74 – 19. The bill will now head to President Obama. Obama is expected to sign the bill into law.
Transportation spending is pegged to remain at current levels. The highways have been given $101.3 billion in funding for the next 27 months.
Traditionally, the highway bills are signed for a six-year period. The new law is longer than what was expected and offers short-term stability for truck driving jobs. Experts expected a two-year agreement that would have kept funding at the same levels. The 27-month agreement is longer than what was expected and is short-term relief for the industry.
The new bill does not address the issue of long term surface transportation, and it does not touch on the federal fuel tax that is in place. Many trucking companies are pleased that the law is going to keep funding at current levels. A few minor roadblocks were in place, and conservatives pushed to reduce spending by more than 60 percent. The Senate also had to undergo negotiations to find funding for the proposed differences.
The new measure includes a variety of provisions that will affect the trucking industry. A field study will be conducted on the 34-hour rule that affects restarts. In addition, truck size and weight limits will be considered. This could lead the way for a new national freight policy. Studies will also be conducted on the need for parking spots for truckers and the crashworthiness of today’s vehicles.
Electronic Onboard Recorders (EOBR)s are kept in the bill. These monitors are a controversial subject because they track the hours of service of truck driving jobs. Even as the bill was passed, an amendment was added to block the EOBR mandate.
The amendment to the transportation funding bill is sponsored by Jeff Landry, R-LA and Nick Rahall, D-WV. The amendment would strip the funding from the EOBR mandate that was included in last week’s bill. As written in the new bill, EOBR technology would be able to provide real-time tracking for drivers and long haul truckers.
The trucking industry has been concerned about the use of EOBRs, and most industry watchdogs are against the new technology. Many view the use of the monitors as an infringement on driver privacy.
However, the federal government has maintained its position on the use of EOBRs, and electronic logs appear to be the wave of the future. The Department of Transportation (DOT) will move to institute requirements that all trucks have EOBRs installed as a matter of routine safety.
The new bill also included an amendment that would prohibit a user-fee based approach. The user-fee was to be derived on the total vehicle miles traveled, and the measure was specifically prohibited according to the newest legislation.